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Sermon Central Staff
GOD MADE HIMSELF UNDERSTANDABLE
I read of a story from the famous Danish philosopher from the mid 1800s, a Christian theologian named Soren Kierkegaard. It is a familiar story, a story rewritten by many over the ages in many different forms, yet it is still relevant today. Here’s what he wrote:
A prince wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage, his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love.
But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand? He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor.
The prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved, into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him, because of who he was and because he loved her first.
This very simple, almost childlike story is what John is describing here--God came and lived among us. He had to reveal Himself to us in an understandable way, and this is precisely what Jesus did--became flesh just like you and me. He made Himself understandable.
(From a sermon by Rich Anderson, Love Came Down At Christmas, 12/16/2010)
Recently a Baptist Pastor in Illinois received a visit from the FBI. They came in response to an anonymous caller who took issue with something the Pastor said in his sermon. According to the Baptist Press news service, “Nov. 23, 2004, started out like any other normal morning for Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Ill., a town about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis… [until]… the phone rang. It was the FBI. Steele said they wanted to meet with him personally…. When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit. Their answer stunned him. “One guy opened a file,” Steele said. And he said, “’This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’” On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called Life Issues dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it. “I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through legal abortion since 1973, Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the ’presupposition of freedom.” Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week. Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s different type of war comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI. (Now, don’t any of you get any ideas) This informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause. Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series. “I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. “The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.” “That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Pastor Steele reported. ….Steele said that after the two FBI agents examined his two sermons in question, they realized he was not a physical threat to abortion clinics and apparently dropped their investigation. …Pastor Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant. “As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that’s going to change the lives of people.” Like this Pastor, the message of Jesus was controversial in his day. If Jesus were around today I am certain the FBI would question him about some of the things he said.
Sermon Central Staff
WHO NEEDS THE CHURCH?
Mark Driscoll stated this about the importance of the church in a person’s life and how he discovered that truth:
"Occasionally, I would drop in to church out of guilt, but always walked away feeling as if I’d just wasted an hour with an ex-girlfriend ... simultaneously. I continued reading the Bible and kept seeing that the New Testament was written by pastors of churches to churches about church life. And, I was convicted that there is no such thing as a personal isolated relationship with Jesus apart from His often ugly bride, the Church. Acknowledging my disinterest in the Church as little more than arrogant judging, I decided to seek out a church where I could obey the Scriptures commands to go to church (Hebrews 10:25), place myself under the authority of pastors (Hebrews 13:17), use my abilities to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12), partake of communion in a church (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and give my tithe to a church (2 Corinthians 8-9). I was finally starting to realize Jesus died not just for me, but for His church, which I was a part of by His death and resurrection (Acts 20:28). I then had to decide where to go, which was a frightening prospect..."(The Relevant Church, page 23).
(From a sermon by Michael, McCartney, Who Needs the Church? 6/20/2012)
Ravi Zacharias tells the amazing story of a young Christian in Vietnam. He writes, “I was ministering in Vietnam in 1971, and one of my interpreters was Hien Pham, an energetic young Christian. He had worked as a translator with the American forces, and was of immense help both to them and to missionaries such as myself. Hien and I traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before I returned home. We did not know if our paths would ever cross again. Seventeen years later, I received a telephone call. ‘Brother Ravi?’ the man asked. Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice, and he soon told me his story. Shortly after Vietnam fell, Hien was imprisoned on accusations of helping the Americans. His jailers tried to indoctrinate him against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese, and the daily deluge of Marx and Engels began to take its toll. ‘Maybe,’ he thought, ‘I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe the West has deceived me.’ So Hien determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or think of his faith.
The next morning, he was assigned the dreaded chore of cleaning the prison latrines. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what seemed to be English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly grabbed it, washed it, and after his roommates had retired that night, he retrieved the paper and read the words, ‘Romans, Chapter 8.’ Trembling, he began to read, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. . . for I am convinced that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Hien wept. He knew His Bible, and knew that there was not a more relevant passage for one on the verge of surrender. He cried out to God, asking forgiveness, for this was to have been th...
Can you name some famous neighbors?
*Mr. Rogers Neighborhood in his sweater and sneakers … “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood … won’t you be my neighbor?”
*Dennis the Menace … “Helloooo Mr. Wilson!”
*Ricky & Lucy Ricardo … Fred & Ethel Mertz.
*Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor … Wilson.
Have you ever had trouble with a neighbor?
The story of the Good Samaritan is about neighbors, and it has all the elements of a movie: violence … crime … racial discrimination … hatred … neglect … unconcern … love … mercy.
Who says the Bible isn’t relevant to the modern world?
SOURCE: Ray Scott in “The Good Samaritan” on SermonCentral.
Suicide is a real and relevant problem in our culture. According to the 2001 Statistical Abstract of the U.S there were almost 31,000 (30,775) people who took their own lives in our country. Over 4000 (4135) of those were by people between the ages of 15-24, young men and women in the prime of their lives. The Western States have the highest rates of suicide, far above any other region of the country. And in the 90’s our State every year was above the national average in this malady
HAVEN: THE REAL YOU
What is in you is what comes out and always reveals the REAL you.
In fact, that which you say yes to is the tell-tale sign of what is inside you. It is the litmus test of whether you are walking in the Spirit or in the "flesh. What's inside comes out.
My wife and I watch a television series on the SYFY Channel called "Haven." Last week's episode is a good indication of how many in the series develop. The community of Haven was seeing terrible things happen to it ... things that would suggest it was ... cursed. First, the water sprinklers began to spray blood -- not water. Second they were inundated by frogs.
Yes, you guessed it; Haven was experiencing the ten plagues of Egypt.
In the end you discover the reason. There was a young man who lost his wife when she gave birth to their first son. The husband/father was angry that his wife had died and afraid his son would too. All his toxin came out on the people of Haven -- they received the consequences of his hatred and anger.
The heroes of the story became heroes by helping the young man find peace with himself -- to forgive. And afterwards the plagues stopped.
THE PRINCIPLE IS RELEVANT -- WHAT IS IN YOU IS WHAT COMES OUT AND IT AFFECTS ALL THOSE YOU ARE AROUND. IT CANNOT HELP BUT SPILL OUT ON YOUR RELATIONSHIPS.
“Step Into The Image of Christ!” Hebrews 5:1-9 Key verse(s): 8-9:“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him . . .”
Why do we love the Constitution so! A document that is nearly 220 years old and written in the flowery English of our forefathers, a musty old thing that some say has little relevance to the way we live our lives today; why is it that it occupies a central display in our national archives and governs yet after all these years? As a charter, some say, it is certainly without equal. Many have compared it to the Magna Carta presented by the English barons to King John in 1215. Others have held it up as the hallmark of all governing charters. Certainly we can all be proud of our Constitution. In reality, nearly every other democratic nation in the world has made it their epitome as they craft their own charters of state. But, what is it about this charter that holds us so tightly after all these years? It must be more than the “bigger-than-life” characters that wrote it and signed it. Ultimately, it must be the relevance of what it grants not what it so eloquently states that so binds us since the lives we lead today bear little resemblance to those led by its authors.
A charter is something that engraves for all time. It is meant to be held in high esteem and altered only with utmost diligence. For a charter grants privileges and reserves rights which are endemic to life itself not just living. In a sense, it reflects the character of those who wrote it on-in-perpetuity. Though gone for hundreds of years, when we open the pages of our Constitution, we see reflected not just words but images; character images of those who bore this document. When I read our Constitution I can see and feel Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and the all the others who shaped it word by word and then embraced it for all ages. As you cannot look at Michelangelo’s Pieta and not see the sculptor or Rembrandt’s The Black Watch and not see the artist, it is impossible to divorce the Sons of Liberty from pages of our Constitution.
A charter is a likeness of those who drew it up; a reflection of their thought. When we read a charter and live under it as we do the Constitution, we are not simply edified. Rather, we enter into it and become like Jefferson and Madison. Their words become our words because once a charter is so drawn up, ownership of it belongs to those to whom it is granted. It is not Jefferson’s Constitution. It is Mark Brunner’s Constitution and so on. Since it is my charter and your charter, and we receive from it rights and privileges reserved only for those who live under it, we in turn strive to protect it, defend it, and cherish it. To love it become natural. In that love we follow naturally into obedience. For it is natural to obey something which provides us with essential security and well-being. The more and more we crave that security and well-being, the more and more we strive to conform to the image of the charter that provides it. In a sense we are holding the document up to the light of understanding and trying to step into it and sound its depths. In our love of freedom and liberty we long to make the Constitution, the charter of our freedom-loving forefathers, the portal by which we enter into and conform to their understanding of what freedom is.
Jesus Christ came down from heaven over two thousands years ago and presented us with the greatest charter of all time, the charter of freedom from sin and death through His sacrifice once for all on the cross of Calvary. His Word is our charter to freedom that is irresistible to a sinner. It draws us into Christ Jesus himself and because of what it promises, remains r...
THOUGHTS ON THE CHURCH
Here are some thoughts on The Church from a few 30 on down in age, individuals from the book "The Relevant Church":
Tyler Watts, "I think I disconnect from the Gospel of Jesus Christ when I'm not involved in close relationships with other believers."
Philip Evans, "Every believer needs a 'church' even if it's just four or five of you meeting together to worship, I know my relationship with Christ would deteriorate if I didn't surround myself with people who encourage and challenge me in my faith."
James Bullock, "I love the diversity of church--so many different people saved from a range of pain, addictions, lifestyles--now all set free in a community together."
Andy Squyres, "When I hear the word 'church,' I think of the body of Christ in its fullness, without denominational or dogmatic boundaries, church in all its organic glory, shifting and growing, as all living things do."
Cory Passehl, "Church is not just a building or Sunday morning service, but a place where the Body of Christ comes together for encouragement, edification, challenging, rebuking. It's a place where people are cared for, a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and a place of worship."
Jendi Reiter, "Church is the one place where I am accepted 'as is.' Church gives me an understanding of human frailty and reminds me that we all need God's forgiveness-even me. Growing up as a reformed Jew, I was always pressed to achieve and compete. Then when I began attending a Christian Church in college, I discovered church could be a place of amazing refuge, acceptance, and salvation."
Robin Lemke, "I know that people say they don't need church, but anytime we gather together, God promises to be with us. What could be more enticing than God's presence? Why wouldn't we go where God promises to be?"
“Small Opportunities in Great Tasks!” Luke 23: 50-56 Key verse(s): 55: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.”
IF YOU HAD your choice, would you prefer that your hands and heart be on the end of great deeds or lesser ones? Great deeds are not only attention getters’; they are potentially more impacting in their scope. So it is not always a matter of recognition that must be considered. Great deeds affect more people and isn’t that the goal of every Christian? If we keep in mind that our ministries, yours and mine, are not about us but about the glory that God can reveal through us, would it not then make sense that each of us should aspire to great deeds and let the lesser one fall where they may?
Recently I had my classic car into the shop for major body work and repainting. The wear and tear of nearly four decades of driving had really taken their toll. The original paint finish, a beautiful willow green, had faded to a very indistinct grayish green color. In places the brown undercoating was showing through and it had become nearly impossible to tell just what color the car had been in the first place. Surface rust had spring up in abundance over the entire chassis skin. That combined with the revealing undercoat brought some to speculate that the car had originally been brown and that the greenish-gray paint was nothing more than a poor attempt to cover it. There were dings, dent and creases everywhere. Both rear fenders had been buckled due to accidents and there was a good size dent in one of the front fenders. Both bumpers were creased and dented and a number of pieces of chrome trim was missing. The car looked pretty sorry as I left in in the capable hands of the body shop. It would be many weeks before it would be finished.
Over the course of the next several weeks I had occasion to stop into the shop just to see how things were going. I was amazed the very first time that I stopped to see that all the dents, creases and dings had been eliminated. I walked along the sides of it brushing my hand along the now smooth and sleep exterior. But, the old paint remained as well as the surface rust. The car looked better but, unfinished as it was, it still looked kind of sad. The next time I stopped by I was told that the car had been stripped and readied for painting. Curious as to how she might look I asked to see it. The manager called up the young man who had been working on it and he guided me back to where they were working on it. There it sat, chrome taped up to prevent over-printing and completely devoid of color and finish. Frankly, it looked barren and stark as it sat there covered with a thick layer of dust and specks due to the power sanding that had been done. Improvement? Sure, the surface rust was gone and there were no more dents, creases and dings. They had put a lot of work into it; but it still seemed a long way from being finished.
Finally I got the phone call I was waiting for. My car was “finished and I could pick it up any time.” I rushed down to the shop and there she was; gleaming, painted and smooth. I could hardly believe it was the same car I had dropped off weeks earlier. As I paid my bill I asked to see the guys who had worked on her over the course of those weeks. It turned out there were several who had put a whole lot of effort into the project. I thanked each of them and then got into my car to drive back home. The first thing I noticed, however, was that there was no wax on the car and that the entire interior was coated with a thick layer of dust. There was also a missing chrome bezel over the back running light. The car was finished but not complete. There were yet a few details to be taken care of. Each not critically important but each would contribute to the overall appearance of the car. Several weeks later, new bezel in hand, interior cleaned, and a fresh coat of wax on the entire surface, the old car gleamed. It was the few final details that made all the difference.
Those Galilean women that followed Joseph to the Savior’s tomb had not been allowed to testify in Jesus’ behalf. They were not important enough to be pursued by the authorities as “followers” of the “Galilean prophet.” Neither Caiaphas nor Pontius Pilate even knew that they existed nor did they probably care. They were not preachers or baptizers but they did what they could. They were the “detailers,” the ones who took care of the little things that on the surface did not seem that important relevant to the whole picture. Yet their deeds were works of completion and finishing. On the one hand small, on the other great. You and I are often called to just such opportunities. When called to do the small things we need to recognize that even lesser opportunities serve to complete those of greater impact. In these instances we need to see that it is not what we feel we cannot do but what God has enabled us to do is important. Often in great tasks rest small opportunities. It is up to us to look for them for they are not always labeled.